Our hearts go out to the victims of Aurora. Once again a troubled spirit has taken lives and transformed a community. Over the past decade we have become almost accustomed to the grisly outbursts of troubled souls.
Here in Oregon, our memories flash to our own tragedy – Thurston (Springfield).
Sadly, we cannot undo the past. However, we can – we must – find a way to at least curb this spiraling threat.
We know that most tragedies occur with guns purchased legally.
We also know that most of the predators involved in mass killings are intelligent people that would likely find a way around policies and protocols devised to thwart the purchase of firearms.
At the risk of igniting a fire-storm, I offer a proposal for consideration: a concept for legislative action this coming year. Instead of focusing upon guns and gun laws, let us implement a tax upon bullets: a new tax levied upon all ammunition that is not categorized “for hunting [game] purposes.”
Additional exemptions could be made for public safety personnel for skills/training purposes (these people are already credentialed; other “products” already require proof of ID).
This tax would provide a “paper-trail” that could alert public safety personnel when extraordinary quantities are purchased (because of the spike in revenue reported) as well as likely decrease the lethality of an attack by a poorly resourced would-be terrorist.
This proposal invites attack from both “sides” of the gun debate: for gun-control advocates it will be viewed as a weak measure; for 2nd Amendment advocates it will be identified as the “beginning of the end…” for gun-ownership.
I am sensitive to both of these perspectives (and the people that sincerely hold them), but I reject the arguments. I refuse to stand silent witness to inaction. As a veteran, I have seen too many people die. Often these victims just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. And while I do not believe this measure will prevent every nut-job from killing innocents at a public event, it will do something – and it can be passed – without threatening our liberties.
The fact is: guns do not kill people, bullets kill people.
So let us target the agency of destruction: bullets that are being used against people, instead of against clay targets and game. A fight over gun-ownership would require a fundamental rethinking of how many Americans understand liberty; it is a fight that would consume much, yield little.
Most of the gun-owners I know will not like the tax, but they will respect the differentiation between “hunting” and “non-hunting” uses. Reasonable people will understand that this measure (or something like it) both preserves gun-ownership and uses public agency to at least attempt to limit the carnage of events like Columbine, Thurston, Virginia Tech, and now Aurora.
We can do better, and we must.